just got back from a weekend in Boston. It was my "Do-over" marathon to commemorate the tragedy of the , which in turn, was to celebrate my recent joining the 70 year old age group. It was a wonderful weekend.

The time spent was a number of things: it was a weather-perfect early spring weekend for appreciating both the natural and cultural highlights of this city. It was an opportunity to enjoy the company of friends, both old and new. It was a time to savor some very good restaurants and an exceptional pub. It was an emotional sojourn through the memory of last year's tragedy. It was a journey though 8 towns and cities packed with people giving back a huge emotional lift to those of us making the journey. And it was a 26.2 mile run.

I don't mean to minimize the importance of the run, which, after all, I had worked hard over the last 5 months to do — in a nutshell, I had a tough and a bit disappointing 26.2 mile run, but an absolutely fantastic Boston Marathon weekend.

But let's start with the city —

Saturday: Getting my bib, checking in at the hostel and other chores

  arrived around 1:15 PM on Saturday courtesy of Bolt Bus from New York City (cheap: $48 round trip discounted to $13 by using my “Frequent Bus Rider” rewards). And it was on time: 4 hours and 15 minutes (Amtrak riders take note!). I walked from the South Station (yes, the same station where the Amtrak train would arrive 3 hours late ) and was at the Hostel in about 15 – 20 minutes with my heavy pack (why did I need no less than 3 old Boston Marathon shirts?)

I stayed at the Hostelling International Boston on Stuart Street, about 2 blocks from the Boston Common. These Hostels exist all over the world, and, formerly called “Youth Hostels”, now cater to patrons of all ages. It was packed with runners, but had a good smattering of European and Asian tourists and trekkers. And cheap — $140 for 3 nights, with free all-you-can-eat breakfast! The only potential drawback was the dormitory style rooms (5 other guys, all here for the marathon, were in my room). Yes, you lose your privacy, but the forced socialization both in your room and in the always open kitchen / dining area (bring and cook your own food) was a big plus compared to a single hotel room where you can go all weekend without talking to anyone (and can hardly get a snack without paying $10 for a candy bar). And before you ask, yes, there are tons of bathrooms!

Note: Click the following picture or any of the single pictures in the report to view a larger version.

First thing I did was to walk to the Hynes Convention Center (about 20 minutes) and got my bib and race packet and checked out the expo. The expo was full and rather tiring so I got out of there. I took some pictures, both in the Hynes Convention Center and down along Boylston Street, including the spot where the first explosion went off last year. The weather was a cool, beautiful, blue ski day.

On the way back to the hostel I first checked out the Old South Church where I would attend the Easter/Marathon Memorial service the next morning. I went accross Copley Square and finally headed up to Arlington Street. I bought a 7 day subway pass ($18 — I could have saved by buying single rides, but who knew?) and got the lay of the streets around my Hostel.

That night, I ate at "Legal Seafood" on Stuart Street, a place my daughter had taken us to years before at an earlier Boston Marathon when she was living in Somerville. It turned out to be a bit pricey, but I ate a lot and had a great dessert. See the last shot in the slideshow below. Then I read a little on my iPad (free WiFi at the Hostel) and hit the hay early. Tomorrow would be busy and my legs were already tired from the several miles of walking I did on the Boston streets.

BTW: the slideshows tend to zip by quickly by default. Use the control to set the interval to something suitable.

Sunday: Some quiet activities

unday would be a very good day. Not rushed or overly busy, but some very nice things.

First I went to the , which is on Boylston Street right past the finish line. My old friend Harry Huff is the Minister of Music at the church. He plays the historic Skinner organ, conducts the Old South Choir, and supervises the church’s extensive music program, which includes a jazz ministry, the Old South Ringers and numerous concerts. I sang with Harry for many years as a chorister in New York. He moved to Boston about 10 years ago and we have stayed in touch.

The church always celebrates the marathon and attracts runners each year on “Marathon Sunday”. This year was special, being both the anniversary of the tragedy and Easter. And to put it in perspective, the explosion last year went off about 50 feet from the church.

As a special project, a group of church members started knitting scarves from blue and gold yarn to present to each runner present. Word got out, and hand made scarves started showing up from everywhere in the country and from overseas. They ultimately had over 6000 scarves to present to runners.

I was honored to receive such a scarf during the service, and, I tell you, it means as much to me as the marathon finishers' medal.

Besides the ceremony of giving out the scarves, the music at the service was extraordinay, including works by Handel, Mascagni, Hampton, Widor and Mulet, It was an extremely powerful experience and I told Harry after the service that it has been many, many years since I had been so moved.

After the church service ended I got a call from Susan who had just arrived from NYC. Susan is my good friend and long time running partner who was coming up to Boston to enjoy the expo and the sights and sounds, and to cheer me on at the marathon. I met her at the hostel where she was also staying, and we went off to the to enjoy some touristy things.

The was number one on my list. I can remember being taken there to ride the Swan Boats when I was a child in the 1950s by my favorite uncle. It was a rite of summer and one of my best memories. Susan joined me for a turn around the pond, and then we headed to the Ducklings statues, one of her favorite memories — and one she shares with her son. She can recite the names of all 8 ducklings quicker than saying "quack, quack, quack, ...". They commemorate the story from the popular children's story "", published in the 1940s. Think of the Ducklings statues as akin to the Little Red Lighthouse in NYC, and you'll understand. And yes, if it looks like the ducklings in that photo are wearing Boston Marathon bibs — and Easter bonnets, and blue and gold scarves — you're right! But of course!

Susan then checked out the expo, while I took it easy. But I did say "hello" to Bill Rogers who was doing a book signing. He said he thought he remembered me when I said we had met at "Andy's Camp", but maybe he was just being nice. BTW: he is very nice.

Last stop of the day was the official pre-marathon dinner — which I had never been to in 5 previous Bostons. About 8 Flyers met in the Faneuil Hall area and the line moved fast and the menu was good (they even had Sam Adams beer). But somehow we got seated in an outside area and it got quite chilly before we were done. We took the Orange Line back to the Chinatown stop, and a block later we were at the Hostel. Tired, but it had been a very nice day.

Monday: The Boston Marathon

arathon day was literally a joy from the time I woke at 6:30 AM until I conked out about 9:30 PM. I got my stuff on (including sun block) and met Susan in the kitchen/dining area about 6:45. About a half an hour later she walked me over to Tremont Street and up to the buses which would take me to Hopkinton. Then I got my first surprise — I was on the bus in about 5 minutes! This was almost unimaginable: other years it often took 30 minutes or more to get through the long winding lines on the Boston Common. The BAA really had it's act together logistics-wise.

After a bus ride of 30 to 45 minutes, we were at the Athletes' Village in Hopkinton. The first photo I took had a time stamp of 8:48. I found my way to the third subdivision, spread out my Mylar blanket and lay down in the grass under bright sunshine. Although I was a bit chilly just sitting there, it looked like it would be a hot day out on the course (it was). I made one trip to the Porto-johns and was as ready as I could be when they called wave 3 to get lined up about 10:30. Our starting time was scheduled for 11:00 AM, one hour after the elite start.

Then came the second logistics miracle of the day. It took about 25 – 30 minutes to get lined up in order and walk to the starting line (about ¾ miles down the road). Just when we all got there and were in our respective corrals, the gun went off and we shuffled to the starting line and got running in no more that 5 minutes! They had this organized and timed to the minute!

I took my camera and decided I would take a picture as we entered each town along the way. In retrospect, I should have taken my town-by-town photos in the center of each town and not the boundary, since each town center was more packed with people than I ever remember. Framingham and Natick, usually pretty sparse, were just bursting. This created a big, big emotional lift. And the slogan “Boston Strong” was everywhere. They believed it and so did we – the city was strong and we were strong and proud of it!

Wellesley and Newton (from around mile 12 to 22) are, I think, the very heart of the race. And you go through the most breathtaking scenes: the Wellesley girls at their screaming, beautiful best; Wellesley center surrounded by mansions and golf courses where you reach the half way point and Newton where you pass one of the lowest points on the course crossing the Charles River around mile 16 and the highest point cresting Heartbreak Hill at mile 21. And one of the biggest lifts (aside from the Wellesley girls) comes when you reach the Flyers cheering station where you need it most — at the very start of the hills.

I swear, the last 5 miles of the Boston Marathon, are the best of any marathon. These post-wall miles are where you often fall apart. Not at Boston: the terrain (nicely down hill), the crowds, the scenes and the finish simply carry you along. It's not an exaggeration to say that you couldn't fall apart in this section even if you tried. The huge crowds simply would not allow it! And this year the huge crowds were huger than ever. And there's something about seeing the trolley cars rolling by opposite Boston College and along Beacon Street when I think “only in Boston”.

Knowing my race this year would set no records, I relaxed and took more pictures in this section than I had planned. Each traditional landmark — Cleveland Circle, Coolidge Corner, the Citgo sign, Kenmore Square, the return to beautiful Commonwealth Avenue and passing under Massachusetts Avenue — brought back memories of Bostons, long past and into the present.

This last landmark — passing under Massachusetts Avenue — brought to the fore the pain and sadness that had shadowed this race from the start, but had lain hidden just beneath the surface. My daughter, who had seen the sideshow a few days ago emailed me “I like all the pics, but the 'Under Massachusetts Ave' one almost made me cry. That must have been a very emotional moment.” Yes, Payslee, you got that right. It was exactly there, at Mass. Avenue, that we were stopped last year and where, after a frantic effort, I found my two kids (or rather they found me) who had just watched me pass by.

But as was proclaimed the day before at the Easter service in the Old South Church, “Life triumphs over death”, we all picked up our feet and our hearts and came through the tunnel, turned right on Hereford, and left on Boylston for the last few tenths of a mile to the "Triumph of Life" of the Boston finish line.

It doesn't end at the Finish

f course, the Boston Marathon isn't over when you finish. I was exhausted as I stumbled along and got my medal, my super Mylar wrap, and my goody bag and made my way up Boylston Street to the Public Garden where I met Susan. She had cheered me both at the Flyers station at mile 17 and at Charlesgate (just before Mass. Avenue) and had been on her feet probably 6 or 7 hours.

We made our way back to the hostel where I showered and had some ramen noodles, courtesy of Susan. I was thinking “Gosh, I really don't have the energy to go to the Flyers drinks and then to the party up by Fenway Park, but I'll go since I think Susan wants to go”. Meanwhile, Susan was thinking “Gosh, I really don't have the energy to go to the Flyers drinks and then to the party up by Fenway Park, but I'll go since I think Richard wants to go”.

Well, we read each other's minds without much difficulty, and quickly decided to just go for a few beers at the bar next door, which we had walked by a few times over the weekend. It turns out it wasn't “just” a bar, but one of the oldest establishments in town in a historic building built in 1845. Inside it was lush with old wood and a beer list that could rival the Dive Bar up at 95th and Amsterdam! And it was packed to the gills with happy marathoners and spectators with nary a square inch of surplus space. Just then, two seats at the bar right in front of us opened up and Susan grabbed them. As we sat down, the guy next to us asked “Did you just run the marathon?” “Yes.” I said. “That's incredible! My son here owes you a beer. Make it two — one for her too.” It turns out he had lived all his life in Boston but this year for the first time he went to watch. He was blown away by the race and the runners (and I think my gray hair impressed him). Along with the cheering of gazillions of fans along the course, THIS — two beers from a total stranger — was as true a “Boston Strong” gesture as we had seen all day. Thank you Boston! Stay strong!

After we had a couple more, we took a little walk over to the Public Garden to get some fresh air and walk off the beers. The day ended as it began, a beautiful day in a beautiful city!

The Nitty Gritty: that 26.2 mile run you've been waiting to hear about

(You can skip this section if you don't care about a bunch of aches & pains and numbers .)
  know, I know, how did I do? Did my legs hold up? How about Heartbreak Hill? Am I happy with my time? Well, to be honest, I was a bit disappointed. My time in my qualifying race which I ran on October 1st, 2011 was 4:16:09 and my “projected” time in last year's Boston Marathon (projected from my 40K split time, since I could not finish) was 4:51:08. This year my finishing time was 5:24:40 — there seems to be a trend here, wouldn't you say?

I'm not into excuses, but there were a few limiting factors: the sun and high temperatures (high for marathoners) and my chronic problems with my right leg which certainly affected my training as much as my performance at Boston. But when all is said and done, it was a good race and I feel I did credibly well, given the circumstances.

As I got into the middle miles of the course (say, miles 12 - 15), I realized this would not be a day for a fast time, so I relaxed, took some additional photos along the way and enjoyed the crowds (especially the Wellesley girls! )

I've put my mile splits from my watch into the table below and you'll notice a couple of things: I stopped about every 6 miles to work a bit on my right foot (a bit of self massaging to get the circulation going and reduce the numbness) and a gradual slowing in the second half — probably partly due to the heat and partly from my conscious effort to relax, to take photos and to enjoy the race.

A few other mile splits (miles 2, 5 and 11) rise above the gradual trend, and I suspect I was taking pictures or making some other unscheduled stop there. The mile splits graph below the table shows these outlyers clearly. The bottom line is I was not trying to keep going all-out, but was taking time out here and there to do something or to fix something. If you add up all the "excess" from these miles, it would amount to maybe 10 - 12 minutes, which would change the big picture only slightly (my finish time would look something like a 5:12 rather than a 5:24).

One good result you can see from the graph is that I did not take a big hit going up the Newton hills (miles 18 - 21), nor did I die in the late miles — there was no "wall" in this marathon.

Splits 7, 13, 18 and 22 (marked: *) involved stopping
for a gel, an Advil and to work on my foot.
In mile 13, I also met the Wellesley girls.

Mile Split Elapsed
Time
    Mile Split Elapsed
Time
110:10 10:10 1411:452:44:19
211:42 21:52 1512:032:56:23
310:26 32:17 1612:033:08:26
410:37 42:55 1712:333:20:59
512:30 55:25 1815:10 *3:36:09
610:45 1:06:11 1911:583:48:06
712:39 * 1:18:49 2012:194:00:25
811:02 1:29:52 2113:124:13:37
910:40 1:40:31 2215:00 *4:28:37
1010:351:51:07 2313:324:42:09
1113:102:04:17 2413:564:56:05
1211:122:15:29 2513:105:09:14
1315:48 *2:31:17 2613:595:23:14
M/2  2:32:34 M  5:24:40

Folks love to ask, "What about next year or the year after? Will you try again?" Well, in the past I've said things like: "This will be my last Boston Marathon" or "I'm retiring from marathons", but then I changed my mind. So I won't try to predict the future, even my own future. But I will say it's undeniable that this sort of thing gets tougher and tougher as the years go by. So I will hazard a guess that my future marathons, if any, will likely be fewer and farther between.

That's about all the self analysis I'll do, but I would reiterate that although my finish time may have been a little disappointing, my Boston Marathon was a fantastic experience, probably the best of my six.

Postlude: Thanks

ome runners come to running marathons gradually. We decide we're getting old (in our 30s, no less!) and start running a few miles a couple of times a week. Then we may enter a race or even join a running club (Go Flyers!). We hear talk from other runners of marathons, particularly in New York, and we decide we have to do that. And we do, sometimes with great success — Maybe that's you. And sometimes we may say “Never again!”.

Others come to it the other way round. We happen to wander out for coffee on the Upper East Side on a Sunday in November and can't cross First Avenue. "What's with that?" we say. Someone in the crowd says "That's the New York City Marathon, clueless!” So we watch and it happens — “I can do that!”. And we do — our first (and probably last) marathon.

I guess I was in the first category. But not really. I knew about marathons, in particular the Boston Marathon, since I was a child. My father took me to watch Boston in the 1950s when I was, maybe, 8 - 10. He knew of the Boston Marathon since HE was a child in the nineteen-teens. He remembered Clarence DeMar and Johnny Kelly from the 1920s and 1930s and would talk about them and others like Tarzan Brown (winner 1936) from time to time.

THANK YOU Clarence and THANK YOU Johnny. You were the best there were.

I still remember the Boston Marathon from the 1950s when my father took us, and, of course, from the 1990s when I ran New York a few times and finally got to run Boston. (in 1993). So you might say I'm connected to the early Bostons through him and the connection continued to the 1990s when it was my turn. And my father was there in 1993 to cheer me on near Cleveland Circle.

And speaking of circles, the Flyers at the '93 Boston (about 15 of us) stayed at the Park Plaza Hotel and I had gotten a postcard showing the hotel with the Swan Boats in the foreground. My dad looked at it and said “That's the Statler. Your mom and I stayed there the night we were married." The postcard was sent to me by my friend Susan to wish me luck in the '93 race — and the self-same Susan was there this year to cheer me on. How's that for a coming full circle.

THANKS Da for setting me on the long road to Copley Square — and thanks for absolutely everything!

But my marathon ambitions did not leap suddenly from 1950 to 1993. There were two intermediate steps along the way that come to mind. In 1957 when I was in the 9th grade, I was listening to a Red Sox game on the radio (instead of doing my homework), when suddenly the crowd roared in the background. No, it wasn't a Ted Williams home run, it was an announcement in Fenway Park that Johnny Kelly (the Younger) had just won the Boston Marathon. The first American in years and the first (and I think only) member of the BAA to actually win the race. BTW: he's no relation to Johnny Kelly the elder (pictured above). That 1957 memory is still firmly in my head.

Fast forward through high school and college and two little kids to 1979. On a November Sunday morning I sang in the choir at a church near Times Square. For no particular reason, I decided to walk up to Central Park. When I got to Columbus Circle I noticed a bit of a crowd, so I walked in beside the entrance road which was fenced off. Suddenly a motor cycle and a car drove up the road not 20 feet from me. There running in front of the car was none other than Bill Rogers on his way to his first NYC Marathon victory. And I remember to this day how smooth and easy his pace was. My interest in marathons, long dormant, was reawakened.

THANKS Johnny, you kept the chain of memories alive. And THANK YOU Bill, you helped inspire me to do what I do.

Unfortunately, I can't thank (or even remember) every one who helped or inspired me over the last 2 decades, but I must mention those whose help in the last 2 or 3 years got me to Boston in 2013 and again a week ago.

First comes Joe, my coach and massage therapist. He literally got me through a tough period in 2011 and helped me get to the point of qualifying in the 2011 St. George Marathon and again was highly instrumental in getting me to the starting line — and to the finish line — this year. And I'm forever grateful to Melissa who did hill repeats with me on cold nights this winter and ran with me on many equally cold long runs in this year's very tough training period.

THANK YOU Joe for all your help and THANK YOU Melissa for your support and good company.

Next comes Susan, my best friend and long time running partner, who, for almost 25 years, has inspired me by her positive nature, her tough performances (over mountains, no less) and good advice that really helped keep me on track. What more can I say?

THANK YOU Susan for just being who you are! (And thanks for that postcard in 1993.)

I know, this is beginning to sound like the Academy Awards. Please bear with me, there's just a couple more.

Last year's race, at the end, was traumatic to say the least. At about mile 25½ I saw my son and daughter along the side of Commonwealth Avenue, kissed them, got my picture taken and said I'd see them after the race. They said they heard something happened but did not know what, so we agreed to call each other after I finished. Well, I only got a few hundred yards further when the race came to a full stop at Mass. Avenue. Luckily, we found each other after some frantic cell phone texting and were able to walk back to Coolidge Corner and get picked up by Nancy, my son's wife. I never appreciated as much before or since just seeing them, and walking together to safety.

THANKS kids for being there when we needed each other — and for being there even when we don't.

As for Joy, my wife of 47 years, you have always been there to put up with me and give me love and support for these crazy things I do. I'll never forget a 10 mile race in Central Park in sub-feeezing weather about 25 years ago, when you unexpectedly showed up to watch and cheer me on at the Engineers' Gate, not realizing you'd have to stand there freezing for about an hour and a half. But you did.

THANK YOU Joy for your love and support — always!